2 days and 2 nights in the UK - where would you go?
March 17, 2018 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American who lives in Seattle and I have a trip to England coming up. I'm staying about an hour outside of London for the first part of it, and I have an unexpected extra 2 days with which to do whatever I want. What should I do with two nights and two days before I have to go back to the US? Some thoughts and guidance for suggestions inside.

I was just in London last summer, and I had an absolute blast. I also spent a night in Brighton and loved it. I am not against going back to either of those places, but I'm also interested in other things I could do in England.

Last time I was there, things I did that I absolutely loved:
The Tate Modern
SoHo & 7 Dials (I stayed in SoHo and I loooooved it. Considering just doing it again).
An opera at the Royal Opera House
Westminster Abbey
Going to the movies (just a simple thing, but I loved doing something "everyday" and getting a sense for life in a faraway place -- it turns out English movie candy is really good)
Saw a show (The Pharcyde) in Camden
Camden Market
Tower of London
Train ride to see a friend in Guildford
General walking around and wandering
Wandering Brick Lane
Wandering The Lanes in Brighton
Shopping at Harrod's
Hyde Park
Hanging out and chatting folks up in random pubs

Things I didn't do or see because I ran out of time or they were too far out:
British Museum
St. Paul's Cathedral
House of Parliament

Things I didn't do because I wasn't particularly interested:
Buckingham Palace
London Eye
Big Ben
Harry Potter or James Bond stuff

There is only one thing I want to be *certain* I do:
Get some good Indian food - I didn't pull this off last time I was there because I didn't know where exactly to look. We went to Brick Lane with instructions to "follow our noses" and wound up in a smoked meat house because we are as American as they come. I imagine this shouldn't be *too* hard.

Things I love to do:
Check out local shows and live music
I love history - I'm really into exploring castles and the like
Attend events and festivals and special museum shows
Anything off the beaten path (I love to explore atlas obscura, for example)

Any good event calendar or web resources to find things like that would be really great. Or any great things going on in the area that you're aware of, let me know!

If you had this time, what would you do, where would you go? Is there a favorite restaurant you would visit? A favorite bar, museum, etc? Where would you stay? My intention if I go back to London is to stay in SoHo again, but I might skip it and try another part of town if there's something I should try.

If I went back to Brighton I'm not sure what all I'd do for 2 days - although I'm sure I'd figure it out, but if you have suggestions of great things to do there, I'm also all ears.

Also - I'm open to not even going to London or Brighton this time and checking out another place and wandering around, but it has to have some pretty cool stuff to do. So seeing Stonehenge for example is probably out, because there's nothing really else around, right?

I'm not planning on renting a car, although I did rent one for a day last time and driving around was absolutely terrifying so I'd like to avoid it. :)

Looking forward to hearing what suggestions you've got!
posted by pazazygeek to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
With two days, I'd spend one in London to cross a few more items off your London list, and then take a train to York (2 hours) or Bath (also 2 hours) for the day. Of the two I think York is more distinctive and more differentiated, in part due to being northern. It is gorgeous, culturally rich and very historic.

Oxford is also an option but meh.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had to check twice as I didn't see the Victoria & Albert Museum on your lists. Very, very good.
posted by N-stoff at 7:41 PM on March 17, 2018 [7 favorites]

I came in to say "go to York!" so it appears DarlingBri and I are on the same wavelength. Cambridge is nice too but York probably has more going on.
posted by indienial at 8:02 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Museum of London is primarily a historical museum, so it's probably the museum you'd most enjoy visiting.

Hampton Court is, in my opinion, the best of the palaces to see, as it is literally a 15th- and an 18th-century hybrid, so you can get a taste of both. It's not a "working" palace like the ones in central London, but rather a historic site.

If I were sticking my head in one church, it would be St. Bart's the Great. The pre-Christopher Wren churches are just more interesting.

If you can afford it, eat at Hedone. Just a fantastic meal.

York is probably the best day trip for variety and points of interest. It's harder to enjoy Oxford if you aren't affiliated with a college or the university. Closer in, Greenwich is a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.
posted by praemunire at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2018

London is great, expensive, and overwhelmingly stuffed with interesting places and musuems. We went to the Tower of London, which was interesting and required almost a full day, much to my surprise; the British Museum, which was my primary museum objective; the Victoria and Albert, which we just walked through on our way to somewhere else but which proved to be mind-blowing; the British Library, which had a show up on SF&F as well as an overwhelming number of famous manuscripts on display in the rotating collection gallery; St. Paul's; The Hunterian, an anatomy museum; and the single most amazing museum of the trip, Sir John Soane's Museum, which defies description.

The thing we did not get done was a visit to Stonehenge, which I inexplicably completely forgot about even though we had a car and spent several days about fifteen miles away. If you are outside London and considering heading into the City for a day, examine your route and consider making the stop. I regret it every time I ponder this trip.

Have a great time!
posted by mwhybark at 8:07 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and we went to the London Transport Museum, too, which was fun!
posted by mwhybark at 8:09 PM on March 17, 2018

Dishoom has several locations in London for Indian.

Install the time out app for what's going on.
posted by brujita at 8:11 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're at all interested in technical history, computers and cryptography, don't miss out on Bletchley Park. Note that on the same terrain there is also the National Museum of Computing, which is maintained by a different organisation than the rest of the Park, and possibly even more worthy of your time.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:16 AM on March 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

the Victoria and Albert, which we just walked through on our way to somewhere else but which proved to be mind-blowing

Yeah, I don’t think the V&A is as well-known outside the UK as some of London’s other museums but it is possibly my favourite. The Medieval galleries and the ceramics galleries would both be world-class museums in their own right.

If you’re interested in naval history, you should definitely go to Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard. It’s a couple of hours by train from London. The HMS Victory (Nelson’s flagship at the battle of Trafalgar) and the Mary Rose (a Tudor warship that sank in 1545 and was preserved in the mud) are both remarkable exhibits.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 4:40 AM on March 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

London + day trip to York is a great option - I'd also consider either Oxford or Cambridge as options. If you are thinking about a non-London centric trip you could use Edingburgh as a base. There's plenty to see there and lots of cultural events and you could do a day trip into the highlands.
posted by crocomancer at 4:44 AM on March 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and we went to the London Transport Museum, too, which was fun!

It also has the advantage of being right off Covent Garden with all its restaurants and shops. Covent Garden is in turn right off the Strand with all of its West End attractions, and the Strand is right next to Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column and the National Gallery. All of this is within walking distance of the South Bank, the National Theatre, the London Eye...things to see and do are crazy close together in that part of town.

God, I miss London.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:59 AM on March 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would get out of England altogether. London is expensive and crowded. Take the train to Snowdonia and go for a walk in rugged, ice-scrubbed hills.
posted by Morpeth at 6:12 AM on March 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you've already done London but not anywhere else in the UK, I vote day trips. Cambridge is an easy day trip and near and dear to my heart. Catch Evensong at King's. Bath is also great (the famous water is vile, tho) and York is so fabulous for a history nerd. There are literal visible layers of history (the undercroft of Yorkminster is mind-blowing). Snowdonia is achingly beautiful.

If you stay in London, Museum of London is quite nice, the Globe is super, and there are several walking tour outfits that can help you see the amazing history that's just, like, sitting around everywhere. If I go back I'll also be sure to go to Hampton Court, I've heard such good things.

I've never met a person that thinks Stonehenge is worth going to, though. Strike that off your list.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:18 AM on March 18, 2018

The newly opened Postal Museum and Mail Rail are really cool. Also, nearby, the Charles Dickens Museum.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun at 8:00 AM on March 18, 2018

I think I'd agree with a day in London and a day trip...and I agree York / Bath / Cambridge are good choices. Snowdonia is stunning but very weather dependent and doesn't have great public transport. If Wales is blessed with an amazing forecast for your two days I'd consider it but not otherwise.
Dishoom is a good and easy option for Indian. Brick Lane, as you found out, isn't great. If you want to go upmarket I recommend The Cinnamon Club. For cheap and cheerful Tayyabs is a great option and you could go to the Whitechapel gallery at the same time. Columbia Road Flower Market, also nearby, is a great place to see London life, if you make your London day a Sunday. I know you said Indian but there is a great Italian there, Campania. If you go for York you might do better for Indian food! The North has a fine curry tradition. Bradford is the epicentre but Bombay Spice in York has a good reputation.
posted by tardigrade at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go to Chelsea Physic Gardens and come to Dudley to visit me and have fine chips and ale.
posted by parmanparman at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

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